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Joseph H. Saunders
Joseph H. Saunders
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Tort Reform Antics in Tallahassee

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The Daytona Beach News-Journal published an insightful editorial about joint and several liability. In part the opinion piece states,
“Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would reduce plaintiffs’ ability to recover damages after a successful lawsuit. When multiple defendants are involved, juries are asked to assign degrees of fault to each, making each defendant proportionally liable for any judgment. But if one defendant can’t pay, another might be required to cover that deficit — a practice known as “joint and several liability.”

Florida lawmakers put heavy restraints on joint and several liability in 1999, creating a complicated formula that protects businesses and governments from being named as “deep pockets” in lawsuits while recognizing that victims of carelessness or malice deserved to be compensated for their injuries. The Legislature also limited the application of joint and several liability to easily quantifiable losses, such as lost wages or medical bills.

It was a complex deal, one lawmakers fought hard to craft and that most were satisfied with. But the issue is back, and this time nobody seems to be reaching for nuance.

Instead, lawmakers want to wipe joint and several liability off law books altogether — despite any evidence that the practice has been abused, or that a more balanced approach is hurting Florida’s economy.”